David B. Coe: Release Day and Defining Success


200CoeJacksonToday is the official release day for Spell Blind, the first book in my Case Files of Justis Fearsson. I’ve already blogged about the book in some detail, and so I think that at this point a description of it would probably be superfluous. Instead, I’d like to use this post to revisit the idea of defining success.

Spell Blind will not be debuting on any bestseller lists. It’s possible that the book will do well enough in these first few weeks to creep onto a list or two (and if you would care to help in that regard by purchasing a copy for yourself and perhaps sending one to a friend, I would be most grateful), but even that is a long shot. The book will receive some good reviews, I’m sure. It already has gotten a few. But if I define the success of this book in terms of raw numbers or starred reviews or offers to have it made into a movie, I’m probably going to be disappointed.

We’ve discussed this before in this space. Each of us needs to define success for ourselves, because no matter what we do, no matter how good a story or book we write, when we rely upon others for the validation of our work, there is always the potential for disappointment. Someone, somewhere is going to write up a bad review. Some editor or agent is going to reject it. Sales can always — ALWAYS — be better.

I began my series of posts about Spell Blind early in December with a description of the process I had gone through in getting this version of the book to press. I rewrote it, I went through rounds of rejections and then rewrote it again. I was stubborn as hell because I believed in the book and I wanted desperately to see it in print. I wanted readers to meet these characters and read Jay Fearsson’s story, and I fought and fought and fought to make that happen.

SpellBlind250So in a sense, the very fact that this book is being released today is success. Sales don’t matter, and neither does the critical response to the book. After all that I’ve been through with this novel, it should be enough that I can hold a bound copy of it in my hand. Of course, the operative word there is “should.”

Because the truth of the matter is that in self-defining our success, we constantly wrestle with two contradictory impulses. On the one hand we want to take pride in what we have already achieved. If your goal was to complete a novel and you’ve gotten it finished, then you have succeeded, and can be pleased at having done so. I wanted this book to be contracted and released, and as of today it has been. But then there is that other impulse. We are — and should be — ambitious for our work. I want more than just to see my book in print. I want it to sell well. I want readers to love it and thus buy the next books in the series. Having finished that novel, you now want to sell it somewhere.

And that’s as it should be. Sure, it seems like we’re moving the goalposts for ourselves, but I’m not at all sure that this is a bad thing. Success, in whatever form we seek it, can and should be a fluid set of goals. In meeting one, we immediately look toward the next. And so, we will eventually and inevitably be disappointed. Spell Blind is out. Goal met. It has some nice reviews. Check. Maybe it will sell well and go to a second printing. Check. Sooner or later though, whatever marker I look to next will remain beyond my reach. As I say, it’s inevitable.

The secret for me is finding that balance between ambition and satisfaction. I refuse to be complacent. I will always look toward that next horizon. But I am learning as well to be pleased with whatever success I’ve already enjoyed. This is a stretch for me. For years I beat myself up for not achieving more. I embraced all the ambition without allowing myself any of the satisfaction. And quite frankly, I made myself miserable in the process.

I’ve said it before: This is a hard business, a hard way to make a living. I love it and I would never want to do anything else, but it sure isn’t easy. Nor should it be. Conceiving a novel is hard. Writing that novel is harder still. Revising it to the point where it’s publication-ready? Really hard. Selling it to a publisher? All of us know how hard that is. Having it do well in the marketplace and garner good reviews? Becoming a bestseller? You get the idea.

So no matter where we are in the process, there is something we have done in which we can take pride, just as there remains more for which we can strive. We should all take a moment to acknowledge those things we have succeeded in doing. Then, and only then, should we look toward the next potential accomplishment.


David B. Coe is the award-winning author of more than fifteen fantasy novels. His newest series, a contemporary urban fantasy called The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, debuts with the January 2015 release from Baen Books of Spell Blind. The second book, His Father’s Eyes, will be out in the summer of 2015. Writing as D.B. Jackson, he is the author of the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy from Tor Books that includes Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, A Plunder of Souls, and Dead Man’s Reach (also coming in the summer of 2015). He lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two teenaged daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.



16 comments to David B. Coe: Release Day and Defining Success

  • […] make the occasion, I have a post up at Magical Words called “Release Day and Defining Success.” It’s about taking satisfaction in our writing achievements while also remaining ambitious and […]

  • […] mark the occasion, I have a post up at Magical Words called “Release Day and Defining Success.” It’s about taking satisfaction in our writing achievements while also remaining ambitious and […]

  • princejvstin

    Happy Release Day, David!

  • Wow, David! The mass market pbk is already selling for $719!! 😉

  • inkfire

    Happy release day 🙂 I’ve enjoyed reading your posts concerning this book lately, I’ve missed hearing from the regular MW authors. Are you doing any signings with this book?

  • Happy release day, David. I’m looking forward to reading Spell Blind.

    Thanks for the encouragement. Very helpful.

  • Misty, I know. Quite the typo. Hope they get it fixed before the mass market release in May . . .

    Inkfire, thank you! Yes, I’ll be signing in Richmond, Rock Hill, SC and Gastonia, NC. I’ll also be stopping by other places to sign bookstore stock. Thanks for asking.

    Vyton, many thanks! And I’m glad you found the post helpful.

  • Razziecat

    Looking forward to reading this; it’s on my Kindle right now 😉 And, David, you should definitely be proud of this release, because every time you get a book published, especially one that you’ve had to work so hard to make into the story you knew it could be, well, that’s a fantastic accomplishment! We all know that one book or two books or even 10 books published doesn’t guarantee that your next one will be picked up. So allow yourself to enjoy this! You’ve earned it! 😀

  • Thank you, Razz. Easy to forget that in the midst of release day, as I check on my rankings way too often and worry about people boosting the signal, etc. Release days are high stress, and it’s a shame, because it makes it harder to do exactly what you suggest, which happens to be exactly what I should be doing! Anyway, thank you.

  • Congratulations and good luck!

  • sagablessed

    Happy release day!! Happy book-birthday!! 🙂
    I love the point blank, no nonsense approach you take to this. It really hit a chord with me, as I think I have not looked to the achievements I have made. This really made me think about what I consider ‘success’.
    Thanks for this. I shall look inside and see what I can find that amkes me feel successful. Because, it may be a hard business, but writing has made me happier than ever. In part thanks to the MW peeps here.

  • Thanks very much for the great comment, Donald. Very glad you found the post helpful. And thanks as well for the happy wishes! Much appreciated.

  • chemistken

    Congratulations on the release. I’ve read some of your books and, as a newbie author, it scares me a bit to know that someone with your writing skills can still have a difficult time producing a publishable book.

  • Chem, it’s never easy. But that’s part of the glory of what we do. If it was easy it wouldn’t be fun, it wouldn’t force us to dig deep into our creative cores and mine the magic dwelling there. Of course I still have a difficult time; but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Really. Take heart in that. And thanks for the comment and kind wishes.